Dollars and scents: Q&A with ‘olfactive branding’ expert Samantha Goldworm

Dawn and Samantha Goldworm are founders of a branding company with a twist. Their New York-based company, 12.29, is an ‘olfactive branding’ agency. It designs custom scents for retail and corporate environments, hospitality venues, special events and private homes. The company also works extensively with fashion labels, and for the first time is coming to Australia for the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival next month.

Marketing chatted with Samantha Goldworm ahead of the sisters’ visit to Melbourne next month where they will keynote the Marketing Breakfast, presented by Deloitte, hosted by Russell Howcroft, and supported by yours truly, that’s taking place on 21 March.

Marketing: Tell us about your company 12.29 and what it does.

Samantha Goldworm: Our company is what we call an olfactive branding company. We create signature scents for brands.

When a brand wants to reach their consumers in a new way, or reach their consumers in a more emotionally powerful way, we take their brand and translate it into a smell which they can use to diffuse in their store or hotel or physical space.

Or if they don’t have a physical space we scent their packing for ecommerce or create additional scented products for their target or consumer. We can scent or create pretty much anything with smell.


The power of smell is not a new idea in neuropsychology, why is it a new idea for brands?

The power of smell, is not a new idea, if we think about bakeries they push their vents out onto the street to have their customers walk in their door, because the power of smell triggers something so emotional and so compelling you literally follow your nose. But companies really haven’t taken this idea and used it for marketing and branding. There are a few companies out their that have used the idea of scent, but not created specific scents for specific brands, so that when you smell that scent you’re immediately linked to that brand.

It’s not just ambient scenting where it might smell good or make a consumer feel a certain way, maybe very comfortable so they want to linger, which is another marketing tactic. What we do is specifically create a smell so that in your olfactive memory, it’s specifically linked to one brand, so you can create this new emotion, this new memory associated with that brand.


Who are some of your clients?

We have quite an array of clients. Thinking about Melbourne Fashion Festival, our fashion clients, we’ve worked with everyone from Prabal Gurung, Calla, Jason Wu, Zac Posen, Thakoon…

We’ve been scenting shows for quite a few years. We usually scent one big designer per season, so those clients are spread across multiple seasons in New York and Paris.

In terms of other events, we created a signature scent for Art Basel / Design Miami, and we are scenting the Armory Show in New York this year – those are big art fairs.

We also work with a lot of hotels and hospitality. We scent the Thompson Hotel Group, we scent Highgate Luxury Hotels in New York City [and] some retail stores in China and Hong Kong called Pye.


How much work goes into creating a signature scent for a brand?

It’s a process that we’ve developed, [or rather] that our ‘nose’, Dawn, developed. It’s a process where we sit down with the client for about two hours and ask them questions really dissecting their brand. We actually don’t ask them any questions about smell. We ask them to tell us about the colours of their brand, the textures, who their target demographic is, give us the history and the background of your brand, what types of emotion are you trying to elicit.

So really all the questions you would ask if you were trying to build a new website for a company or were trying to create a new logo. You need all of that input. We take all of that input and we create a smell out of it. It’s a process that’s not subjective, it’s really just translating the information that the brand gives us. So the stronger the brand the better, they really know who they are, the easier it is for us to create a scent.

It takes anywhere from two to four months work with out team. It’s a very cool process, I think it’s a little magical, because at the end of the day, our clients tell us that this is how their brand smells. It’s a very cool creative process, it takes a little bit of time but it’s well worth the wait.


Sounds like fun…

Some people find it very fun, some people find it stressful because they want to find the right answer. But there really are no right answers, it’s just what’s going on with your brand, who is your brand, what is it trying to be, and all those answers are taken into account to create something that smells like you.


Will it remain only the territory of high-end brands?

We don’t focus on necessarily high-end or luxury. We focus on brands that know who they are, that have a very strong identity. That’s how we can really translate you into a smell. We’ve worked with brands that are 150 years old, we’ve worked with brands that are just finding their feet and trying to figure out how to connect with their consumers in different ways, including scent.

It’s really about working with strong brands, and working with brands that want to take their communications a bit further, that want to go beyond the visual and auditory and tactile and really push it forward into smell.


More information about the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival Marketing Breakfast, can be found here.